When it comes to any sport, longevity is an integral piece of a successful program. There is not a better example of what it means to have longevity than looking at Slippery Rock University’s volleyball coach, Laurie Lokash. A hard working, determined and passionate coach, Lokash has laid the foundation for the Slippery Rock volleyball program that is seen today.
Coach Lokash is not only one of the most decorated coaches in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), but in all of Division II. Compiling 634 wins over her illustrious career, Lokash has moved into 18th on the list for all-time winningest coaches in Division II history, while being the 8th winningest active coach across Division II. A feat that is certainly something to be proud of, Coach Lokash maintains a humble approach, crediting all the players who have come through the Slippery Rock volleyball program since 1984.
To better appreciate and understand Coach Lokash’s career at SRU, just look back on how Slippery Rock’s coach got to where she is today, as she gives an in-depth look at the birth of her coaching career.
Laurie Lokash has been involved with volleyball for virtually her entire life. In high school, she played on a Norwin team under Sheron Watson, that captured three consecutive Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) state championships. Lokash would go on to begin her college career at West Virginia University, where she would play one season before transferring to Penn State to play under legendary volleyball coach Russ Rose. After her playing days ended, Lokash made the transition into coaching the sport she loves.
“I love sports, especially volleyball,” Lokash said. “I had the opportunity to play for two of the greatest head coaches ever in Sheron Watson and Russ Rose and after the fact I had a job as athletic trainer, and Coach Rose called me and said, ‘If you want to get into college coaching, now is going to be your chance;’ and the pieces just fell in place.”
Things surely did fall in place for both Laurie Lokash and Slippery Rock, as the volleyball program was going through changes and did not have a head coach in place. The rest was history. Slippery Rock contacted Lokash and offered her the job, and at just 22 years old, she started down the path of coaching and has not wavered since.
35 years later, Slippery Rock now has the winningest coach in PSAC history and Coach Lokash has enjoyed every second of it. After racking up 635 career wins, Coach Lokash gave some insight to how playing for Sheron Watson and the winningest coach across all three college divisions, Russ Rose, partially influenced the way she coaches today.
“One thing about Russ that I really liked is that we did not have a lot of rules per se, what he did was essentially instill a commitment to the team and what we were trying to achieve and Sharon was a bit more strict but she had a lot of really good cues as far as teaching fundamentals,” Lokash said. “She is one of the best fundamental coaches I know, and you try to take bits and pieces from each coach and make it your own style of coaching.”
The style of coaching that Lokash puts forward is certainly effective, given her impressive record of accomplishment. In her first season as head coach, she led a Slippery Rock team that is arguably the best the university has ever seen. The 1984 SRU squad put together a 33-6 record and captured The Rock’s first ever PSAC volleyball title. The accolades do not stop there, as she led Slippery Rock to a sweet sixteen appearance in 1993 and ended the season with a school record 40 wins, and tied a school record for the least losses in a single season with six. The very next year in 1994, The Rock put together a 30-15 record, earning PSAC runner-up honors and earned a berth into NCAA regional tournament. Coach Lokash would go on to lead her team to three more appearances in 2000, 2005, and 2006.
Despite of all her accolades and coaching for over three decades, Coach Lokash maintains that winning is certainly not the most rewarding aspect of coaching, rather, watching her players grow and mature as women.
“I absolutely think the most rewarding aspect of coaching is seeing a player develop as an adult. I always said to people that volleyball or athletics in general is an internship for life,” Lokash said. “In life, and in college athletics more specifically, working hard is an expectation. So I have used my experience to not only coach players in volleyball but teach them valuable lessons about life.”
Coach Lokash’s commitment to her athletes and Slippery Rock is something that anybody must respect. But after 35 years of coaching, one may suspect that it becomes less enjoyable. When asked about her coaching future, Coach Lokash assured that the passion she has for volleyball is a strong as it ever was.
“As long as you are enjoying something, I think that you should stick with it. But when it becomes a burden or an actual job, then it may be time to go,” Lokash said. “I love volleyball and I love working with these players, we’ll just have to see what the future holds.”